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Message from Alan Langlands, Chief Executive (July 2013)

09 July 2013

It has been a busy time for HEFCE, with action on some exciting new initiatives. The Council has maintained a strong focus on supporting universities in promoting national economic growth: we have always known that our higher education institutions make an outstanding contribution to the economy in the UK, and I am delighted that HEFCE’s analysis of the twelfth annual Higher Education - Business and Community Interaction (HE-BCI) survey demonstrated that universities in the UK contributed £3.4 billion to the economy in 2011-12 through services to business, including commercialisation of new knowledge, delivery of professional training and consultancy. This includes an 11 per cent increase in activity benefitting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which gain a competitive advantage from their association with universities, whilst engagement with large businesses increased by around 5 per cent overall (including a 6 per cent rise in contract research income, from £343 million in 2010-11 to £365 million in 2011-12). This not only shows that UK higher education institutions are responding to the needs of business at home, but that there is significant investment from overseas which is seeking to take advantage of the UK’s world-class research.

In addition, the Chancellor announced in June that five new university and business partnerships would be funded to build research centres to drive innovation and growth, in an extension to the highly successful UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF). This is the latest round of projects from the £300 million UK Research Partnership Investment Fund (UKRPIF), bringing the total number of projects to 20: successful universities have secured at least double that amount of investment from businesses or charities, together delivering more than £1 billion of new funding for research  The latest projects focus on areas including the physical sciences, medical research and advanced manufacturing, and will tackle global challenges, like developing new treatments for cancer, and ensuring that advanced materials can cope under harsh conditions, including for the extraction of oil and gas reservoirs.  Projects include a £33million partnership between UCL (University College London) and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust in the Institute of Immunity and Transplantation; and a £63million partnership between the University of Cambridge, the Winton Programme for the Physics of Sustainability, Hitachi Ltd, the Herchel Smith Trust Fund and others to build The Maxwell Centre as a centrepiece for industrial partnership in the physical sciences on the West Cambridge Science and Technology campus.  These projects are excellent examples of the ways in which the higher education sector continues to support and promote growth in the UK economy.

In other areas: NUS was awarded £5million from HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund for a Students’ Green Fund in April, the four key themes of which will be student participation, partnership, impact and legacy. HEFCE’s funding will help students engage with their universities and colleges on the issue of sustainable development, and ensure that sustainability remains a priority for institutions. NUS will run a single-round bidding competition in summer 2013 to allocate the funding: successful projects will then receive funding over two full academic years (2013-14 and 2014-15). In addition, HEFCE recently signed up to NUS’ national environmental accreditation and awards scheme: Green Impact. Run by trained students, Green Impact uses a series of online workbooks to help staff achieve a range of green targets. These include increasing recycling of food and drink packaging, reducing energy use, sourcing sustainable products, and promoting the use of public transport.

Last week, the Minister for Higher Education David Willetts announced a £75 million investment in removing barriers to postgraduate study, ensuring that students from disadvantaged backgrounds will be supported in postgraduate study with up to £125 million of extra funding, Both HEFCE and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills are focusing on increasing access to postgraduate education, which has been identified as a potential barrier to social mobility. An initial £25 million fund will distribute grants of between £500,000 and £3 million to universities and colleges to attract and support disadvantaged students into postgraduate education. After studying its success, the Government will then invest an additional £50m in removing financial or cultural barriers to participation in postgraduate education, as announced in the Spending Review. Extra funding will be expected from universities and businesses, bringing this to around £100 million.

It is heartening that initiatives such as this have been prioritised in the recent spending review, resulting in a decent result for HEFCE: manageable in terms of recurrent funding, with positive growth in capital for infrastructure development.

Page last updated 9 July 2013

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